The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:
What Conditions, attitudes an behaviors support creativity and innovated thinking?
Art in the Market and Missoula Children’s Theatre addressed Arts Core Standard 1 pre-K/Creating: Engage in self-directed play with materials, and Standard 1 grade 6/ Creating: Combine concepts collaboratively to generate ideas for creating art. Art in the Market provides a hands-on creative experience for children to paint, build, and create their own piece of art as their imaginations allow. For example, during the Farmer’s Market themed Apples Festival day, children used apple templates and materials of their choice to create a unique piece. They were allowed to explore and make their own choices on how to design their piece with limited assistance from adults. Missoula Children’s Theatre involved students in a week-long interactive theatrical workshop where they learned to collaborate on a production of the Frog Prince. Students were able to experience different types of acting techniques and creative expression, with the opportunity to perform to the community and test their stage presence.
Our events Living Voices, Piatigorsky, and Shakespearience addressed Standard HS Advanced / Visualize and hypothesize to generate general plans for ideas and direction for creating art and design that may affect social change. Living Voices and Shakespearience provided students with the opportunity to explore the core social concepts further with one on one interaction with performers. Students were provided with the opportunity to look at different perspectives within the story by “interviewing” other characters and re-create a scene from another character’s point of view. Piatigorsky brought an opportunity to experience classical music in rural Idaho.
At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:
For Living Voices, students learned about the process of immigration and assimilation in the early twentieth century through a multi-media art and actor’s performance. Students were asked to draw parallels between current immigration and other historical events. In a survey, a 15-year-old student felt immersed in the performance, “I thought it was beautiful and it made me feel as if I was really there.” She made a correlation between the history shared and current social issues with the summary “that we are all meant to be Americans.” Several students commented on the amazing abilities for the one actor to portray several different characters.
At Piatigorsky, local music students interacted with world-class musicians in a public performance and one-on-one workshop. Students were exposed to the possibility of what hard work and practice can result in. One student was inspired to continue taking piano lessons and improve. This level of performer is not common in our rural region, and this is one of the opportunities the Salmon Arts Council is able to bring to improve the standards of arts and education.
Art in the Market is always a local favorite. Students take pride in their creations, always walking away with a smile. When asking a child What do you like most about this project, the child responded “I like to be able to play with all this art stuff, I LOVE the glitter.” Students are provided with an opportunity to express themselves creatively where they might not have this opportunity elsewhere.
Through the theatrical performances we’ve brought to town, we’re always astounded by the feedback from the community, parents, and students. A common comment is to bring more and more events like these. A parent/teacher said she’d “love to see more of this.” One a-ha moment from a board member was when she heard a former student say that the Missoula Children’s Theatre (MCT) performance they participated in in elementary was the reason they pursued acting in college. This brought attention to the need to continue providing learning experiences such as MCT, to give students an opportunity to explore the arts at an early age and throughout their education.
Without the performances and events provided by the Arts Council there is limited opportunity for creative expression and arts education until high school in our community. With the lack of resources in our school system, art classes and supplies are often limited or neglected. At each performance, we notice that kids are thriving through the experience of seeing actors or musicians perform arts they’ve never experienced before. This can foster their own creative expression and connection to people outside of the community. One of our favorite moments is at concerts when the children and students get up to dance and stare at the musician’s guitar or instrument with disbelief.
Opportunities where the Salmon Arts Council partners with schools and other organizations, fosters a collaborative approach to bringing more art experiences to town and allow creative outlets for students and community members.
For the events of Shakespearience, Missoula Children’s Theatre, and Shakespeare in the Park, we’ve hosted them for multiple years in our community. These events are well supported and haven’t needed too many adjustments to pull them off in recent years. For other communities or organizations, we recommend hosting several different theatre opportunities that involve different age groups, so students and the community are constantly exposed and involved in the performing arts.
Kids Art in the Market, we would love to expand it and have it at every single Farmer’s Market day, rather than once a month. Challenges are having enough volunteers to run the booth. We plan on creating a strategic plan for this program early in the spring that lines out what activities are what days, and recruit and coordinate volunteers.
Overall, we would love to have events that expose students to different cultural experiences. For our next season, we plan on bringing a diverse group of musicians that have overcome challenges and inspire students and adults to do the same. Due to financial constraints this upcoming season we will not be able to bring Missoula Children’s Theatre. Instead, we will partner with our high school drama department and local actors to provide a community led theatre experience for students. Reaching into our local resources we can continue to foster creative experiences for our youth.